Damian Rogers is a Social Menace

Off the Page Festival welcomes Damian Rogers Thursday, November 3rd, in Concordia’s Grey Nuns Building (1175 Rue St Mathieu), room M100, starting at 7:30pm.

Damian Rogers is a social person. “I will talk to someone for hours, no problem. I’m good to talk, as they say,” Rogers recently told Trevor Corkum of 49thshelf.com. The same is true of her page. To read her books, Dear Leader (Coach House Books, 2015) and Paper Radio (ECW Press, 2009), is not at all like small talk. A testament to the absorptive power of her work is that hours of enjoyment will occur before one realizes the time. To finish her books poses the problem: what now? The solution is to re-read her work as if for the first time. As Rogers asks in “The Trouble with Wormholes” (Rogers, 23):

How many times must I learn the lesson of compression?
Let go of everything you know and start from scratch.


Damian Rogers’ work is menacing. Where her voice is accessible, her style, inviting, and her subjects, familiar, her themes challenge the reader’s sense of safety. Familiar objects – roller skates, pantsuits, soap dishes, and sweaters – lay alongside sensory descriptions of dreams, homes, and childhoods. Desires are addressed in association to these objects and sensations, such as the man and spider in “Poem for Love” who respectively “dreams of a red telephone that will only ring for him” or wishes for a “frame upon which to hitch his home” (Rogers, 48). Neither character will realize their desire. A common theme in Rogers’ work is, then, to remind us that life is a series of struggles wherein we often fail to reach our own desires. Life is gritty, we are imperfect, and we lack control to change course. To read Rogers’ work is to feel threatened by the reminder of what we don’t always see ourselves: That there is no escape from our imperfections but through catharsis. In this respect, Rogers’ work is as refreshing in its honesty and menacing in theme as it is creative in its composition. As she writes in “Storm” (Rogers, 18).

We live in
the arteries
of a large
ugly animal
and I saw
it move.


Damian Rogers is the editor of The Walrus and Anansi Press, creative director of “Poetry in Voice,” and the literary curator and co-host of The Basement Review performance series.

Damian Rogers is a hell of a poet.

From Dear Leader:


‘Politicians, in my eyes, ruin our best chances
of making this work,’ said the man running for mayor.

Once they wondered, ‘Where do we go from here?’
And here is as far as they got.

‘If I start freaking out over this spill, I’ll never stop,’
said the oil can. ‘I want to get back to my wife.’

‘You’re a prisoner,’ said the snow leopard to the bank teller.
‘You’ll be the last of our kind to be free.’

‘Let the world turn,’ said the witch,
‘as if it would do so without you.’

‘That feels amazing,’ said the rock ‘n’ roll victim,
as he bled from his head. ‘Do it again.’

What can I say? I can’t wait to meet the future beasts that keep
on knocking from the other side of that big red door.

Don’t miss Damian Rogers with Suzanne Buffam and Sarah Burgoyne.
7:30, November 3rd, Grey Nuns Building M100, 1175 Rue St Mathieu

Rogers, Damian. Dear Leader. Toronto: Coach House, 2015. Print.

– Johnathan F. Clark


Jowita Bydlowska’s GUY

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“It was both fascinating and disturbing to read Jowita Bydlowska’s debut novel, Guy, during the same week news broke of Donald Trump’s 2005 comments describing how he likes to treat (or rather, sexually assault) women. As the recorded revelation sparked a widespread discussion about what men really say about women behind closed doors, and while Trump defenders misguidedly tried to justify his vile remarks as nothing more than “locker room talk,” I was spending time inside the head of Bydlowska’s eponymous and misogynist lead character.” – Globe and Mail, October 2016

After the success of her addiction memoir, Drunk Mom (Doubleday Canada, 2013), Bydlowska’s debut novel, Guy (Wolsak and Wynn, 2016), is a departure in topic but not in style. The pared down prose is just as biting, the subject matter is dark yet humorous, and the antagonistic protagonist distressingly real.

The story is told from the perspective of a misogynist named Guy who has a dog named Dog. Guy and Dog stroll the waterfront outside his beach house while he rates the women around him on a scale of 1 to 10 and treats (or mistreats) them accordingly. But it isn’t beautiful women Guy enjoys singling out as conquests; it’s ‘plain girls’, the ones who will worship him long after he’s finished with them.

There’s something uncomfortable about reading Guy. But then again, that seems to be the point Bydlowska is making; you should be uncomfortable. The normalization of “locker room talk” is uncomfortable. The societal truths she so deftly reveals are uncomfortable. The novel sweeps you along in Guy’s fitness-obsessed, appearance-fixated life until the twist ending.

Jowita will be reading at “Shame: A Fictional Exploration” as part of the Off the Page Festival on November 5th, 2016 at 2:30 p.m. at 5605 Ave du Gaspe, #106. For event info, click here.


Submission Call, Off the Page Festival: A Literary Wake

Are you, or is someone you know, a writer living in or near Montreal and looking to read work to an audience? Would you like to know what that work would sound like as re-imagined by a live band?

Learn more and apply to perform here:

About the event:
“What Remains: A Literary Wake” is a literary performance of selected works and experimental rock/electro adaptations that address the Frankensteinian aspect of reanimating the musical orality of the printed word.

We’re looking for artists willing to perform short works of poetry and micro-fiction that deal with notions of sonic haunting, literary decomposition,ephemeral/electrical embodiment, and/or forms of death. Artists must also be willing to recite their piece in the dark.

Think you have a similar theme that might relate? We’d love to hear from you!

We’re not posting the venue location for now. Our aim is to collect submissions for the event.

If you have any questions, contact us at literarywake@gmail.com



Those who attended March 2016’s Off the Page panel “A Queer is a Queer is a Queer” were lucky enough to witness a dynamic discussion between some of the most interesting voices in literature today, among them former Concordia student Zoe Whittall, a novelist and poet now based in Toronto. Her reading from her first book, Bottle Rocket Hearts, was especially poignant for many of the audience members, as its story grapples with issues still very much relevant today, told against the backdrop of Montreal during the 1995 referendum.

Zoe’s latest book, The Best Kind of People, from House of Anansi Press, is a 2016 Scotiabank Giller Prize finalist. It explores the aftermath of rape allegations leveled against the father, a prep school teacher revered for tackling a school shooter a decade prior. The family’s ostracism from their upper middle class suburban community,  and the powerlessness each member experiences as they locate themselves as individuals, propels a narrative that is both poetic and timeless. While Whittall has been working on the novel for the past six years, the topic of rape culture has been steadily gaining attention in that time, making the timing of the book extremely relevant.

Whittall will be returning to the Off the Page Festival this fall on November 3rd, 2016.